PMQs: Jeremy Corbyn is hitting home on social care because the Tories know they’re failing

Tory investment in social care is woefully inadequate

 

Theresa May struggled to respond to Jeremy Corbyn’s questions on social care and the NHS today, vindicating the Labour leader’s decision to focus on the issue for the second week running.

Commenting on last week’s announcments, he asked:

“In the Autumn Statement last week the chancellor spoke for over 50 minutes. During that time he didn’t once mention the National Health Service or social care. 1.2 million people are lacking the care they need. Why was there not one single penny more for social care in the Autumn Statement?”

Throughout May’s rambling response, the frozen expressions on the Tory benches confirmed that the government has no effective response to criticisms regarding its failure to adequately fund social care.

‘There is absolutely no doubt that the social care system is under pressure, we recognise that,’ the prime minister began.

“If you just look at the fact that there are one million more people aged over 65 today than there were in 2010, we see the sort of pressures on the social care system.”

Strategically, May boxed herself into a corner by responding this way. By acknowledging the dramatically increased need for social care services, she simply emphasised how extraordinarily neglectful her government has been in addressing it.

While she went on to claim that the Tories have already increased spending on the NHS and social care, the reality is that these funds are completely inadequate to tackling the scale of the crisis, as a statement published last week by the Nuffield Trust, Health Foundation and Kings Fund shows.

May pointed to the £3.5bn extra being invested through the Better Care Fund, but even with these much-vaunted additional funds, the social care system will still face a funding gap of at least £2.3bn by the end of this parliament.

Indeed, the extra investment may not even be sufficient to cover the additional costs associated with its own ‘National Living Wage’.

May also said that more money is being invested through the social care precept, but even if the vast majority of councils used the precept to levy an additional two per cent through council tax, the social care system would still face a £1.9bn deficit next year.

She went on to discuss the importance of providing social care to prevent hospital beds being blocked up, and insisted that the social care system is ‘giving the best possible service to the people who need it.’

Unfortunately, over the last six years, amid unprecedented cuts, the number of elderly people accessing publicly funded social care has fallen by at least 26 per cent, putting pressure on hospitals and imposing personal and financial costs on the elderly and their families.

Overall, despite the growing population of over-65s and the greater need for services, the UK’s public spending on social care is set to fall to less than one per cent of GDP by the end of this parliament, which will leave of thousands older and disabled people without access to services.

It’s a well-worn Conservative trick to cite a figure that sounds impressive — like £3.5bn extra funding for social care — without offering any context, or clarifying what the number amounts to in real terms.

It may have worked in the past. But on social care, with all the evidence stacked against her, May’s threadbare excuses can’t disguise the scale of the crisis or the Conservatives’ responsibility for it.

Niamh Ní Mhaoileoin is editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow her on Twitter

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